Rethinking sales in COVID-19

Branding • Website Development • Social Media • PR

At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, Aphra immediately recognised both the potential threats and opportunities that the situation presented – both for our own business and our clients. We were quick to react and held an internal brainstorming meeting with our team to discuss how we could help existing clients fight their way through the lockdown and support other businesses that were not yet clients.

One idea that arose out of this brainstorming meeting and subsequent discussions was the idea for BoxFood. With the hospitality and leisure industry having to shut their doors overnight, and with the public confined to their homes and struggling to source supermarket delivery slots, we had the idea to create a brand that could redirect the food service supply chain to the public to give them easier access to deliveries of fresh food during a time of crisis.

Aphra created the brand concept and produced a business model that was based on the food service supplier receiving all our marketing services and support in return for a small percentage of the profits from any sales. This model meant that any prospective supplier would not be required to part with money without sales – something we saw as critical at a time when their revenue had all but ceased.

Bidfresh are a major wholesaler of food produce to the hospitality sector who previously supplied high-end restaurants and major sporting events across the UK. Aphra approached Bidfresh with our business model and brand concept and they agreed with our pitch and saw the opportunity we had identified. After some commercial negotiations, Bidfresh instructed us to proceed with the new brand.

Due to the unprecedented circumstances, time was a major factor. The window of opportunity that had been identified was widely publicised; therefore, it was imperative that we brought the brand to market as quickly as possible in order to maximise the impact before lockdown was confirmed, as this would have prohibited the go-live. Aphra were instructed to proceed on a Friday afternoon and then proceeded to work over the weekend in order to launch the website, social media channels and issue a press release the following Monday, 72 hours from the initial instruction.

Aphra used its own social media channels and network, together with the extensive network of our Sales Director, Matt Jolly, to promote BoxFood as widely as possible from the outset. In the first 3 weeks, BoxFood reached 100,000 people on social media with over 17,000 clicks.

Reached over 200,000 people on social media

Social value is very important to the Aphra team. As part of the BoxFood concept, Aphra proposed a partnership with London-based food bank charity,, in order to provide some of the country’s most vulnerable with access to food. Bidfresh agreed that for every box of food sold they would donate an item of food to the charity.

Since its launch, Aphra have produced all the social media content and have managed BoxFood’s digital marketing campaign, which is primarily focused on the use of content creation and social media advertising. In 2 months, it reached over 200,000 people on social media. We have also issued a press release, which resulted in BoxFood being featured in articles from Tatler magazine and the Evening Standard. We were also approached by Channel 4 to do a documentary on BoxFood, however, Bidfresh did not feel this was appropriate as they had recently made several staff redundant due to the loss of customers.

Aphra continue to manage all the marketing and communications for BoxFood as part of an agreement that lasts the lifetime of the business.

As of 13th May 2020, BoxFood has taken 2,164 orders totalling £83,000 since 23rd March. This also means that City Harvest has received a huge donation of food from Bidfresh, so that they may help to feed the vulnerable during this unprecedented time. This consisted of:

• 4 cases of apples
• 25 kilos of pumpkins
• 8 cases of oranges
• 5 nets of beetroot
• 5 cases of pak choi
• 40kg of frozen salmon • 30 kilos of carrots
• 5 cases of onions
• 2 cases of bananas
• 5 cases of pineapples • 5 sacks of potatoes
• 66kg of minced beef
• 5 cases of bok choi

The BoxFood concept was designed to simultaneously assist one of the UK’s largest hospitality suppliers continue trading and protect its employees’ jobs, while providing both the general public and the vulnerable with access to food deliveries at a time when the national supermarkets were unable to keep up with demand. The positive feedback from customers saying how much BoxFood had helped them was unprecedented.

The current lockdown measures put in place by central government herald the most significant behavioural change that the world has seen in generations. Aphra are incredibly proud in our response, which has helped the vulnerable, the general public, Bidfresh and its employees during this extremely challenging time.

Following its instant success, Aphra was approached to replicate the same business model for Bidfresh’s subsidiary company, Campbell Brothers. This project was delivered in 48 hours.

Wow - what a fantastic effort! Thank you to Aphra for such a speedy turnaround in the most challenging of economic circumstances that the country has ever known! You calmly and efficiently launched a website so we could get our produce to market during the COVID-19 crisis when all other routes to business had been lost, and ensured items were photographed and marketed effectively, even during lockdown. The result ensured we could gain vital revenue, keep some of our staff in jobs, meant our produce was still getting out to the most vulnerable and in need, and ensured we could also make a sizeable charity donation as part of the project. We were incredibly impressed - and will continue to come back to Aphra should we need any further assistance.

Paul Arman, IT Director, Bidfresh Holdings View all testimonials